So you’ve heard that your business website needs to be ADA Compliant. Besides not knowing what an ADA Compliant Website is, you’re probably wondering if you should even care. You’ve gone this far without knowing that your site needs to be ADA compliant, so now that you know, should you even do anything about it? The way we see it, the answer is yes…and here are four great reasons for making your website ADA Compliant and to help you understand why.
1) Making Your Website ADA Compliant Is The Law
There are a lot of regulations that business owners need to comply with. Labor Laws. Zoning Laws. Tax Laws. Local Laws. Building Codes. And chances are, if you’re a business owner, you comply with every one of them because you know it’s the right thing to do in order to keep your business safe and running next week, next month, and next year.
And when or if you find out that there’s a new law you need to comply with, you take steps to comply. The ADA is no different. The ADA was signed into law back in 1990, before there was such a thing as a website, and focused on physical buildings. At the time, most businesses insisted that the law was unfair, unreasonable, or didn’t apply to them for some reason or another. But thousands of lawsuits changed the public’s understanding of the ADA, and now you will seldom find a legitimate business that does not comply.
Although the language of the ADA was never updated to say so, the DOJ said that business websites need to be ADA Compliant back in the mid-90’s, soon after websites were invented. Soon after, the first version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines were adopted by the World Wide Web Consortium back in 1999. As recently as 2018, the DOJ again confirmed that business websites need to be ADA Compliant. Thousands of court cases have established case law that confirms it: Business Websites Need To Be ADA Compliant.
And since you run a business with a website, your website also needs to be ADA Compliant.
(Update: At the time of this writing, the California Legislature is considering AB 2123, that will make Website ADA Compliance the law in California, and by extension, the entire country.)
2) Avoid a Very Expensive Lawsuit
The ADA is not “just another law that applies to your business” because it differs from other laws in two very important ways:
- The Right of Private Action
- The Right of the Prevailing Party to Collect Attorneys’ Fees
The ADA’s Right of Private Action
If you violate a tax law or building code, it’s the government that comes after you. And believe it or not, the government bureaucrats can be far more understanding and easy to work with than an angry individual on a mission.
And that’s what the ADA allows for: Angry Individuals on a Mission.
Unfortunately, it also allows for Predatory Plaintiffs with a Profit motive.
Small and large businesses alike are being sued by disabled people — usually those who have limited vision or who are legally blind — on a mission to make the web fully accessible to those with disabilities. That’s a noble mission, because the web should be accessible to everyone with a disability or without.
As a result, a blind man named Robles couldn’t order a pizza from the Domino’s website in 2016. He sued Domino’s and lost his initial lawsuit, but appealed and won in the Ninth Circuit. Domino’s appealed to the Supreme Court, who refused to hear the case, letting the appellate court decision stand.
Some of these angry individuals are also predatory plaintiffs, some with more energy than others. In Florida, a woman named Emily Fuller at one point in 2019 was concurrently suing 185 business owners for website ADA violations. Her targets ranged from small businesses like a shoe and sandal store up to larger corporations like Sephora…all because she couldn’t learn about or buy their products or services from their website like the general public can.
In an article, the shoe store business owner was quoted: “Ben Tundis is one of the business owners being sued by Emily Fuller…“The attorneys are telling us, ‘You can’t fight this. There’s nothing you can do, just write them a check,’” said Ben Tundis, owner of Island Comfort Footwear in the Westfield Countryside Mall in Clearwater. ”
Attorneys Fees Under The ADA
So what’s the motivation to sue under the ADA? The law says that the prevailing party wins attorneys fees and costs. That means if you decide you’re going to fight the website accessibility lawsuit…and you lose…you need to pay the other side’s attorneys fees.
Now keep in mind that you’re already paying your own attorney many thousands of dollars. In fact, a client of ours is currently involved in a non-ADA lawsuit. The invoice he received from his attorney to prepare for a deposition totaled almost $23,400, and the invoice for the deposition itself was over $29,700, making his total for just one deposition over $53,000.
You may or may not be shopping for a cheap attorney, but I assure you that the “Predatory Plaintiff” who is suing you is not so budget conscious. He or she is going to buy the best attorney available. Not the best attorney he or she can afford. Not even the best attorney he or she thinks YOU can afford. They are just going to hire the best, most expensive attorney available.
And you are going to have to pay their attorney’s bill in addition to your own.
Plus, you’re going to need to pay to have your website remediated to make it ADA compliant.
You know it’s your job as a business owner to take risks to grow your business, and to avoid risks to protect your business. ADA Compliance Lawsuits are a risk worth avoiding.
3) ADA-Compliant Websites Get More Business
According to the National Institutes of Health, in 2015 there were 1 million legally blind Americans, plus 3.2 million Americans with visual impairment (still bad vision even after correction) and another 8.2 million with vision problems that were uncorrectable. That’s about 4% of Americans who may be depending on the ADA to help them navigate the web. There are far more today, 5 years later.
And these same people currently cannot navigate your website to do business with you if your website is not ADA compliant. Making your website “Accessible” gives you the opportunity to serve millions of people who otherwise cannot do business with you.
And here’s an often overlooked benefit of making your website ADA Compliant: The WCAG, which is the set of guidelines that are used to determine website accessibility, requires that your website be coded with proper HTML — the language that builds web pages.
Google and other search engines also depend on proper HTML coding in order to be able to read your website, understand what it’s about, and rank it properly. If your website isn’t coded with proper HTML, Google can’t read it properly, which means it won’t rank as high as it should. So making your website ADA Compliant also makes your website better for SEO, which means you can rank better on Google and get more visitors and customers.
In short, having an ADA Compliant Website is good for your business.
4) Making Your Website Accessible Is The Right Thing To Do
In the United States, we are at the forefront of civil rights, treating people equally under the law regardless of race, religion, disability or other protected statuses. We are also among the most compassionate and charitable societies in the world.
So it’s no surprise that it was the USA that developed the WCAG guidelines, that the US Federal government passed the ADA in the first place, and that so many businesses build their facilities and their websites to be ADA compliant as a result.
People with vision, auditory, cognitive and other disabilities need your help so that they can live as normal a life as possible.
If your mission is to help people discover, learn about, buy and use your product or service, then making your website ADA Compliant should be a high priority for you. These people need your help.
And if your answer to all of that is that you don’t want to make your website ADA compliant because “I don’t have any blind customers anyway,” (as one business owner told me in a recent conversation) then you’re missing the point. Not having blind (or deaf or cognitively disabled customers) now is not the reason to NOT make your website ADA compliant. It’s the reason TO make your website ADA compliant.
Put another way, by not making your website ADA Compliant, you’re effectively saying you do not want these people as your customers.
Make Your Website ADA Compliant The Quickest, Easiest Way Possible
If you’re now eager to make your website ADA compliant, but don’t want to wait the months and spend the many thousands (often tens of thousands) of dollars to recode or redevelop your website with the traditional website remediation methods, then contact us today about our Intelligent Accessibility Compliance System. With IACS we can have your website ADA Compliant within just a few weeks, with a minimum of effort from either you or your technical staff.
Our Website ADA Compliance Service can help you not only serve more people, but to also comply with the law and reduce the risk of legal issues, both from the government and from private individuals and professional plaintiffs. Contact Us online to discuss your website’s potential exposure to a website ADA threat, or call our office at 818-592-6370.